Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Offers Guidance to the Public on When a Wildlife Encounter or Sighting Becomes Reportable, Location and Date Unspecified | Photo courtesy of DWR, St. George News
ST. GEORGE- Utah’s growing population and related expansion have increased the number of wildlife encounters across the state in recent years. However, not all animal encounters or sightings should be reported to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. In a news release on Monday, the DWR aims to help citizens know when to report.
Wildlife encounters during the summer often occur when people are hiking or camping in mountains or canyons, which are areas of natural wildlife habitat. However, these encounters are also common in cities and other urban areas during the winter. As snow falls in the mountains, deer, moose and other big game species move to lower elevations in search of food. Cougars, which feed primarily on deer, often follow deer into valleys.
While it may seem like these types of sightings are increasing, it’s actually a combination of several things:
- Increased construction in foothill areas and canyons (where wildlife is naturally located).
- An increase in the number of doorbells and security cameras on people’s homes (which capture more wildlife sightings that previously went undetected).
If you happen to see wild animals in your neighborhood or yard, you should always keep your distance for your own safety and that of the animal.
DWR Captain Chad Bettridge said in the press release that getting too close to a wild animal can make the animal feel threatened.
“If he feels threatened, he will sometimes act aggressively to protect himself,” he said. “Also, because it’s harder for some wildlife to find food in winter, they need to conserve energy to survive. Constantly harassing or hunting species such as moose and deer causes them to deplete some of the essential fat stores and energy they need to survive.
Another important way to avoid conflict and harm wildlife is to make sure you never feed them.
Although it is not illegal to feed wildlife – except in cities that have ordinances against it – there are several reasons why it is strongly discouraged, including:
- Public Safety Concerns
- The spread of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose
- Potential harm to wildlife by introducing foods that are not part of their diet, especially during the winter months
“Whenever someone feeds wild animals, those animals frequently return to this area in search of food,” Bettridge said. “These areas are often close to highways and cities. The concentration of deer and other wildlife near populated areas can sometimes lead to increased traffic accidents and other human-wildlife conflicts. Attracting deer to your property by feeding them can also attract predators, such as cougars that follow deer herds. And although deer and moose are not predators, they are still wild animals and can be aggressive. »
So what type of wildlife sighting or encounter should you report? Here is a simple breakdown of some scenarios that should be reported to the DWR:
Cougars can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothills and canyons, but also occasionally in the valleys, especially during the winter months when they follow deer foraging at lower elevations. .
You should report a cougar sighting if:
- He killed something in a neighborhood or a yard.
- He exhibits aggressive behavior.
- He pops up on your security cameras multiple times.
If you catch footage of a cougar on security cameras once or see one from a distance in foothills areas, you don’t need to report it. Spot cougar sightings usually occur when the animal is moving through an area, and it is often gone by the time DWR biologists and conservation officers can respond. Learn more about preventing conflict with cougars.
The black bear is the only species of bear currently found in Utah. They can also be found in foothills, canyons, and other similar habitats throughout Utah. If bears are found in these areas, they should only be reported if they are aggressive or if they are entering garbage, fruit trees or causing damage.
You should report a bear that has ventured into low-lying areas and is within city limits or densely populated areas. Bears usually go into hibernation around November to March, so you probably won’t see one during the winter.
Moose are also commonly found in foothill areas, as this is their natural habitat. You must report a moose that has wandered into low-lying areas and is within city limits or densely populated areas, so that DWR can relocate the animal.
If moose are not moved, they can stay in an area for a long time and potentially injure someone or damage property. Urban environments, which include fences and vehicles, can be dangerous to moose. Avoid approaching moose or attempting to “chase” them off yards or roads. Moose can be very aggressive, especially around dogs.
You should only report a deer sighting in a neighborhood if the animal is acting aggressively. Male deer can often be aggressive during their breeding season, which occurs in November. If a deer is struck and killed by a vehicle in a neighborhood or is found dead in a yard or park, call your nearest DWR office to report it, so crews can remove the dead animal.
DWR also launched the Urban Deer program in 2014 to provide cities with the capacity to address growing deer-human conflicts in expanding urban areas. Learn more about the program on the DWR website.
Birds of prey
During the winter, Utahans can often see hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey on the sides of the road. Although it may appear that these animals have been injured, they have usually gorged on roadkill and are unable to fly for some time. These birds do not need to be reported unless they are on the roadway (and at risk of being hit by a vehicle), have been in the same location for more than 12 hours, or are have an obvious injury.
For more wildlife-related safety tips and information, visit the Wild Aware Utah website.
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